By Steve Woodward
On a glorious December Monday morning, five days ahead of Christmas Day 2021, Moore County citizens stood shivering under a brilliant, blue Carolina sky, unified and inspired. We gathered to watch retired U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Bartel and his family (including four children) receive a ceremonial key to their new home and the beginning of a new chapter in their often turbulent lives.
Ground was broken on the site off of Linden Road in Aberdeen last August, and was built collaboratively through a program launched by Helping A Hero. It is the first North Carolina home completed for a wounded veteran connected to a “100 Homes Challenge” whereby Bass Pro Shops has pledged to cover 25% of the cost of Helping A Hero’s next 100 home builds. Monday’s celebration was attended by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris of Springfield, MO, and vocal legend Lee Greenwood, Helping A Hero’s national ambassador.
The mood and the weather sparked a memory flashback to another wintery day, more than 11 months ago, when a crowd of tens of thousands shivered under brisk conditions near the White House ellipse in Washington. The day was January 6 and, among a roster of speakers, was President Donald Trump. I journeyed from Pinehurst the night before, as did many of my fellow Republicans, some by air, some by car, another group by buses.
Bitter cold caught many off guard as winds gusted and clouds gathered. But this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds, which stood shoulder to shoulder, from across the nation, unified by their love of our country, their pride in President Trump and his administration’s considerable achievements, and their deep and abiding concern that a virus unleashed by communist China had been leveraged to compromise the integrity of votes received and counted before and after November 3, 2020.
Despite the media’s intent to set in stone a narrative that January 6 was planned and carried out as a violent insurrection to overtake the U.S. Capitol and threaten the lives of member of Congress, anyone who was there knows that this is pure delusion. The aura never was violent. You can feel that kind of tension. It was non-existent. There was no discussion of attacking anyone or any property. The major source of aggravation was that the mayor of Washington deliberately limited the number of restroom facilities in the area.
When the time came, around 1 p.m. — after Trump’s lengthy, impassioned speech that never called for “insurrection” or anything close — to move toward the Capitol, thousands bailed out to seek shelter and warmth. I had every intention of heading that direction and, though my spirit was strong, my flesh was weak. And what would have been the point of slogging a mile up the street? Look back at the groups that coalesced to organize the rally. The point of gathering at the Capitol was to hear from a lineup of speakers, crowd pleasers such as Rep. Jim Jordan and other staunch conservatives. There is no doubt that almost everyone assembled — almost everyone because there is strong evidence that a brigade that entered the Capitol at the outset was inserted to infuse mob mentality into the proceedings — desired to postpone the certification of the vote that would secure the Biden presidency and his swearing in 13 days hence.
These memories came back vividly on Monday, during the Helping A Hero event, but later at lunch with my wife and daughter in Drum & Quill. Part of its charm is that it is cozy. The booths are a tad tight. A booming voice in the booth behind me, for which eavesdropping was unnecessary, launched into a diatribe about none other than Donald Trump, whom he called “the worst President this country has ever had”. This 60-something who ought to know better would go on to dismiss the building of a southern border wall as a marketing gimmick by Trump. He said Trump only cares “about himself”. Then he pushed me over the edge. He said those assembled on January 6 threatened to end our democracy, a democracy “that people died for”. (And, loud mouth was not referring to the unarmed military veteran, Ashli Babbitt, 35, who was shot January 6 by a Capitol police officer who never has been identified).
As my blood boiled, I stood and gestured to loud mouth and his less talkative lunch guest. Please quiet down. On his way out, loud mouth’s guest apologized. “Sorry,” he said.
Had I confronted loud mouth, I would have reminded him that Ms. Babbitt died on January 6, not as an insurrectionist but as a patriot who traveled from California to stand for fair and free elections in these United States. And, I would have told him about my new Linden Road neighbor, Sgt. Bartel, who had his left leg blown off during a deployment with U.S. Army forces in Iraq after — after — retiring from the U.S. Marines and re-enlisting in the Army.
Donald Trump backed a strong military, thus a strong America. Loud mouth is a hypocrite. He’s sleeping well at night because Joe Biden is sleep walking through his presidency, presiding over a “woke” military and weakening our nation by every measure. Let’s hope loud mouth was merely visiting for the holidays.